Reeling from Romney’s loss on Tuesday against Obama’s multiracial majority, House Speaker John Boehner made a bold attempt last night to keep his party relevant, telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer that Republicans would get behind immigration reform.
“This issue has been around far too long,” he said, “and while I believe it’s important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”
The comments were an effort by the Speaker to get out in front on immigration and a major shift for the party that’s stood firmly in the way of any legislative action on immigration.
Democrats pulled at least 70 percent of Latino and Asian votes at the ballot box on Tuesday and the Republicans inability to garner any significant support from communities of color played majorly in Romney’s loss.
Romney took an unwaveringly hard stance on immigration in his campaign, saying he would repeal Obama’s administrative decision to halt deportations of young undocumented immigrants. Polls before the election showed that the deferred action policy played into Latino’s overwhelming support for Obama, support that’s now heralded as a central factor in securing his second term.
Romney’s position on immigration in the campaign was widely seen as an effort to secure white votes in conservative districts. Ultimately, the strategy backfired, insufficient to mobilize enough white support to pull off a win.
Republicans appear now to realize it’s time for change. Also yesterday, Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, announced he’d “evolved” on immigration. “We’ve gotta get rid of the immigration issue altogether,” he said on his show.
But both Hannity and Boehner repeated the standard Beltway line that “securing the border” and “enforcing our laws” must precede immigration reform. As the last decade of legislative wrangling reveals, the enforcement-first approach to immigration reform has in the past led only to more deportations, not a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Sen. Charles Schumer, who is Chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, released applauded Boehner’s comments.
“This is a breakthrough to have the Speaker endorse the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform,” Schumer said. “Democrats in the Senate look forward to working with him to come up with a bipartisan solution.”
The Obama administration, for its part, is on shaky ground when it comes to immigration. Though the deferred action policy gave the president a boost, his administration is also responsible for deporting historic numbers of people—about 1.5 million in the last four years.